Homeschooling is a controversial topic because many believe that a formal school setting is required to both learn academics and acquire social skills. Neither are true. According to PISA, the program which ranks nationwide achievement against the international community, as explained in this recent Washington Post article, the US students are only treading water and continuing to fall behind. I do not attribute this to any inherent flaw in the public school system or lack of parental involvement. But obviously our schools are failing too many students, I refuse to count my children as those who are left behind.
As mentioned previously, the compulsory school system is not the only way to teach critical thinking skills and prepare our children for great things. In fact, public schools and compulsory schooling wasn’t established until 1918 (5 years after income taxes made it possible). The 1800s were known as the Age of Engineering because many of our great mechanical technologies were invented during this time. A time when education was only for the privileged who often were taught individually by tutors in their homes (sounds suspiciously like homeschooling. . . .)
As for the socialization aspect, my children learn about our culture’s ideas and expectations through experience. They play at the park with us and other children, Connor likes to attend church, they love to go to our families’ gatherings, play with their cousins, they play with each other, and we are always looking for new opportunities for our kids to make friends. In fact, Connor has a sleepover almost every weekend he stays with us. Never in our entire homeschool career has anyone ever guessed we homeschool because of our children’s lack of social skills or ignorance of our culture’s expectations.
Our motivations behind homeschooling go much deeper than our determination to ensure each of our children has an excellent education. We can guarantee that because we focus our schooling on the mastery of skills, academic and domestic. We also enjoy the fact we can teach our children based on their specific interests at their own speed. For example, Cayden (3) loves dinosaurs so we practice colors, counting, comparing, science (carnivores vs omnivores vs herbivores, fast vs slow, etc) and organizing his toys dinos. His favorite bedtime stories are paleontological descriptions of his favorite dinosaurs and the paleoecology of their time. In fact, one day I asked him what a T Rex ate, expecting his answer to be the generic “meat,” but instead he said, “Triceratops,” a fact we had read the night before!
Another important motivation for us is the fact we can teach each child what we value: evidence based science. I am abhorred by the chance that a religious teacher may try to slip in creationism alongside evolution or may teach it in a way as to discredit it. We are an interfaith family, though so we do not hesitate to include religious teachings from all belief systems.
We also are dedicated to teaching our children critical thinking skills. These abilities are learned and our schools usually just skip over them. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and ideas; however, ideas and arguments are certainly not created equal. As the anti-vaccination movement shows, apt dissection of an argument and review of the supporting evidence can mean the difference between life and death.
Character is a very important aspect of my life. I always strive to do the right thing even in gray areas and want to teach that same drive to my children without promise of a reward or threat of a punishment. Much of religion and our school revolve around this archaic idea that children must be punished or rewarded to display the desired behavior. I do not agree! I focus on modeling the correct behavior, and my children imitate me because that is what they do!
Next, we homeschool because we want to spend time together as a family. I enjoy spending time with my kids even in the hard moments when everyone is crying, and I am pulling my hair out in frustration. I recognize “the days are long but the years are short” for this wisdom it is. Don’t get me wrong, I am not Superwoman and do need breaks like everyone.
Another reason we homeschool is to protect our children from unwanted influences. We get to “approve” whom our children spend time with thus protecting them from negative influences. I know that my children aren’t being exposed to people who will plant unwanted ideas in their heads.
Lastly, we homeschool simply for the satisfaction. I taught Connor to read, add, write, etc. I got to see the light in his eyes during his “AHA!” moments! I get to experience the frustration and heartache with him when something just doesn’t click. There is nothing more exciting or satisfying I could be doing with my life.
In conclusion, these are the most influential reasons we homeschool. Our choices are not right for ever, and I don’t pretend they are. Formal schooling is great and many kids, including myself, thrived in such environments. However, homeschooling is a viable alternative with its own pros and cons, and it’s the best choice for our family.